“We want it to be clear that this sample is NOT a moon,” Apollo 13 Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert wrote in an e-mail message from the moon’s lunar module.
“We are not pretending that we picked up a puzzle piece; we picked up 100 percent of the interior of an internal moon cell,” he continued. “We have the equivalent of the first pictures from Mars we sent back to Earth a few years ago, just on a much larger scale. We looked at the same rock, did the same science, and have a copy of the same article from the same astronaut’s citation. It is just extra funny that the same stuff you read about Mars in the news, we read about on the moon.”
Mr. Swigert and his Apollo 13 colleagues returned to Earth with mementos of the mission they had flown, but they were disappointed that they hadn’t collected samples of the moon. On Jan. 9, a book of poetry featuring the Apollo 13 crew, entitled “Apollo 13: Their Story, Our Poetry,” arrived, but the book is not without controversy — for a different reason than the new poetry collection by the astronauts.
The Apollo 13 Command Module is currently on display in Washington and a large part of the museum’s collection is dedicated to the mission. This space-age spacecraft, which took flight on Feb. 3, 1970, was piloted by astronauts Jack Swigert, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Michael Collins.
As James Hansen has written, the Apollo 13 crew suffered a catastrophic malfunction of the lunar module in January 1970, leading the men in the lander down the 11,000-foot path of the rugged lunar surface for 149 days. Upon their return, a film crew filmed the men while in bed, and they spent three nights in the Chang’e landing site in Lake Baikal.
“We didn’t go to moon to find pictures,” Swigert wrote to the National Geographic magazine, “We went to moon to dig rocks out of that rock.”
According to the New York Times, several weeks later, when Apollo 13 Commander Fred Haise returned to Earth, he told Scott Parry, the science correspondent for The New York Times, “When the astronauts turned on their imaginations to contemplate a possible lunar landing in the year 2000, they had only two photos. One of the astronauts, Jack Swigert, had done some engineering analysis for an updated study on lunar exploration, an analysis that would become the inspiration for the Apollo 13 mission.”
But on the surface of the moon, someone spent $25 million of American taxpayer money, selling pieces to another country as artifacts of the moon.
“Hey! Isn’t that … the same place they say the moon is made out of?” Mr. Swigert wrote, pointing out that while the surface of the moon may not be the same color as Mars, people on Earth would be familiar with its surfaces. “The moon’s surface is rock like Mars,” he continued. “It’s not supposed to look like the high school science fair project we found at Ikea.
Sitting aboard a spacecraft and looking at another craft near you, Mr. Swigert said, is a bit like watching a football game and getting some new shoes.
“They actually offer us something — not unlike the astronaut that I’m in charge of; he gets paid a bunch of money to go up and look at stuff,” he said. “There are definitely two mindsets of the public and the military for space exploration.”